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Hackney demands and petitions the next government to help private renters

HACKNEY Council is calling for the next government to reform the private-rented housing system to improve standards and reign in rogue landlords, rent hikes and letting agency fees, and protect struggling families.

The authority has laid out a 10-point plan which it believes would be straightforward to implement and of great benefit to the nine million private renters across the country.

It has also launched an online Change.org petition for residents to sign, which will be presented to the next government later in the year.

The ten recommendations are:

  • Inflation-capped rent rises to ensure greater security for tenants, particularly for families with children
  • Longer tenancies - for years, not months
  • Stopping retaliatory evictions, by changing the law over notices seeking possession for assured shorthold tenancies
  • Fast-tracking licensing schemes, by cutting red tape for councils setting up licensing schemes to ensure high quality standards of accommodation and service
  • Exploring further incentives for responsible landlords, including the choice for tenants for direct payments of housing benefit to accredited landlords who offer longer tenancies and stable rents
  • Creating a national quality kitemark, so tenants can identify good quality accommodation
  • Establishing a public register of landlords and properties, to enable tenants to find out directly who they pay rent to and enable the Council to provide information and support to landlords who need it
  • A national ban on rogue landlords, as with disgraced company directors, plus bigger fines and more consistent sentencing
  • Costs transparency: making it mandatory for landlords to publish related costs of a property, such as utility bills, and for lettings agents to explain their fees
  • Improving safety: mandatory installation of fire and carbon monoxide detectors and mandatory annual electrical tests

The number of privately renting households has doubled in Hackney in the past decade, and across London 20 percent of this growth in the past two years comes from families with children.

Since 2011, private rents in Hackney have risen by 21 percent, outstripping inflation, and the annual income needed to afford the average rent for a one bedroom home in the borough is £42,937.

Nationally, 39 percent of tenants live in poverty, and one in eight renters do not complain about poor conditions, or challenge a rent increase, because they fear retaliatory eviction.

The petition follows a review by the Living in Hackney Scrutiny Commission which found that the number of privately-renting households in Hackney had doubled in the past decade, up to 32,000.

The commission was also presented with a report of evidence collected from tenants by local private renters campaign group Digs.

One anonymous case study from Hackney Wick, tells of a letting agent revaluing a home with a 50 percent rent increase: “I want to feel like I know that I can pay my rent in three months’ time because it won’t be 50 percent higher than it is at the moment. Really simple things could be to make landlords offer tenants long tenancies with limits on how much rent can rise.”

Another renter, from E5, said: “At the moment we spend 50 percent of our income on rent. We do not have central heating and electric heaters that have been installed consume electricity ravenously whilst heating ineffectively…we plan to stay here until the summer, when I will leave my teaching job and then move somewhere cheaper.”

The Council has also launched a campaign to promote the legal rights and responsibilities of tenants and of landlords, with posters appearing all over the borough highlighting different points of law, and further information on the Council’s website.

On 10 February Cllr Philip Glanville, Cabinet Member for Housing, accompanied Council officers investigating conditions in a privately-rented flat off Chatsworth Road.

The windowless studio flat, for which £900 a month rent was being paid, was found to fail minimum space standards, as well as breaching electrical and fire safety regulations.

Following the visit, the landlord is now working with the Council to improve the conditions in the property.

If you know of a privately-rented property that may require an inspection, please contact the Council’s Private Sector Housing team on 020 8356 4866 or email PrivateSectorHousing@hackney.gov.uk

To sign the petition, and find out more, please visit https://www.change.org/p/the-next-government-10-steps-to-reforming-privately-rented-housing-do-you-agree.

For more information on the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, please visit www.hackney.gov.uk/private-sector-housing

Tenants, landlords and businesses are invited to participate in a survey on privately rented accommodation here: https://consultation.hackney.gov.uk/housing-strategy-policy/prs-tenants-2014

For more information on Digs, please visit www.hackneyrenters.org email hello@hackneyrenters.org or phone 07894 868918

Cllr Philip Glanville, Cabinet Member for Housing
A generation of people in this country are being priced out of the property market, and forced into private rented accommodation. Children and families are being uprooted every six months by insecure tenancies and beyond-inflation rent increases. There is now a clearer case than ever for fundamental reform of the private rented sector, to allow individuals and families to make secure homes for themselves.

Everyone in Hackney and across the country deserves to live in good quality accommodation, and while the Council does what it can locally within existing legislation, and looks forward to measures currently being debated in the Deregulation Bill ending revenge evictions, we are calling on the next government to take these steps to help improve conditions both for tenants and for landlords.
Cllr Philip Glanville, Cabinet Member for Housing